Community steps in to help ill car guard

Isaak Mukendi has been working at Newlands Forest since 2002.

A woman has started a crowd-funding campaign for a popular car guard at Newlands Forest.

Isaak Mukendi, 62, is a familiar face in the parking lot, but at the end of 2017, he fell very ill and travelled to Pretoria to be cared for by his family and church for several months.

The trusted car guard is now on the road to recovery and was back at his post last week.

Mr Mukendi is originally from the Congo and came to South Africa in 1995 due to the political unrest in his country at the time.

He worked on the mines in the Congo, or Zaire as it was known at the time, but got caught up in political turmoil and was thrown into prison – where he was tortured and left for dead.

“My body was dumped close to the Zambian border, where residents took me in and nursed me back to health,” he said.

Mr Mukendi realised that he would not be able to return to his home and left on a truck for Johannesburg in 1995.

By 1996, he had been granted asylum-seeker status. After some failed businesses, he decided to head for Cape Town in 2000.

After spending two years selling wooden goods at various markets, Mr Mukendi ended up at Newlands Forest.

Pauline Hall, who has started a fund-raising campaign to help get Mr Mukendi back on his feet, said he was well known by visitors to the forest for his big smile, friendly welcome and infectious laugh.

“I’ve been walking in the forest for 30 years and had become use to seeing Isaak here,” she said.

Ms Hall learnt from one of Mr Mukendi’s relatives that he had been ill, and when he returned to work last week, she decided to start the campaign, to help Mr Mukendi and his family as he had been out of work and an income for eight months.

“Whilst we walkers enjoy the peace and beauty of the forest, he not only looks after our cars, (come rain or sunshine), but will keep any stray dog safe until the owner is located.

“He always has a dog lead to lend you and runs a very handy lost-property department. You will find him reading or studying during the quiet times. Isaak is a great asset to the community,” she said.

Mr Mukendi said he had got to know many of the forest regulars over the years.

“I never ask anyone for money. If people give, they give, if they don’t, they don’t,” he said.

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